Category: Fauna

Moles

Found in temperate zones of Europe, Asia and North America, moles are small voracious insectivores of Family Talpidae, Order Insectivora. They have round little bodies, short legs and tail and flat, pointed heads. They have lovely soft velvety gray or brownish-gray fur without nap. They live short lives, reaching sexual maturity at the age of 6 to 12 months, and producing one to seven young (usually about four) once or twice a year.

Although vegetation comprises only a small part of their diet, they are considered pests by gardeners. Their constant tunnelling can be very destructive to gardens and lawns, damaging the roots of plants. Surface mounds, often the first and only indication of their presence, are unsightly. To their credit, moles aerate the soil and kill noxious organisms.

Living most of their lives underground in a constant search for food, moles have little need for the senses of sight and sound; they have small or vestigial eyes and most lack external ears. Their bodies are specifically designed for tunnelling: forelimbs are set almost on opposite sides of the shoulders and are shortened and rotated outward.

Interesting moles:

  • American Shrew Mole, Neurotrichus gibbsii North America’s smallest mole, with many shrew-like features, is relatively agile compared to its larger cousins and is often active above ground.
  • Iberian desman, Galemys pyrenaicus Russian desman, Desmana moschata These moles are aquatic! The Russian desman was trapped for its fur in the 19th century and is now rare.
  • Senkaku mole, Nesoscaptor uchidai This mole is extremely rare; it is found on one island, Uotsuri-jima Island. This island is subject to territorial conflicts among China, Taiwan and Japan.
  • Star-nosed mole, Condylura cristata North America’s only semi-aquatic mole. Its nose is distinctive, consisting of twenty-two (22!) sensitive tentacles. Not even the elephant’s trunk is as mobile, complex or touch sensitive. These hardy little fellows have been observed burrowing through snow and diving under ice.
  • Long-tailed shrew mole, Scaptonyx fusicaudus This is perhaps the world’s tiniest mole, residing in western China and northern Burma. Its head and body may be only six cm long, but it has a three-cm tail.
  • Mole Hero of Kenneth Grahame’s charming animal tales, The Wind in the Willows.

Personal note: my grandmother had a cat that caught moles. My grandmother used to say that cat was worth her weight in gold.

Sources: www.britannica.com, www.moletunnel.net

© 2001-2006, originally published Jun 13, 2001